NCF Nation: 2011-conference-coaches-poll

The Big 12's coaches enter 2011 in an interesting position: No one is really on the hot seat. Some are closer than others, but it would take a scandal for any coach to lose their job midseason, like Colorado's Dan Hawkins did last year.

But, some still need to win worse than others. Who needs it the most?

Turner Gill's Kansas team went 3-9 last season and was blown out in five games, winning just one conference game. Can the Jayhawks be more competitive in Gill's second season?

Mike Sherman neared the hot seat after a 3-3 start last season that looked headed for a third losing season in three years. Then he won six consecutive games and got the Aggies into the Cotton Bowl with a share of the Big 12 South. Can he get over the hump and into the BCS in 2011?

Paul Rhoads won a bowl game in his first season, but as his team gets better, the schedule seems to get tougher. Now that the Cyclones will face the entire Big 12 South every year, can he get Iowa State back into the postseason?

Mack Brown suffered through the worst season of his career last year, and the worst at Texas since 1997, the year before he arrived. Does Texas get back on track this season, or with five new coaches, is this a project that will take another season to pay off? Or worse, is this the beginning of the end of Texas' run as an elite Big 12 team?

Tommy Tuberville loses a lot from last season's team, but he's done plenty to convince Texas Tech fans that he's the best man for the job, with record-breaking donor contributions and the school's best recruiting classes. Does that finally carry over to the field, where he has yet to surpass how often his predecessor, Mike Leach, won?
It's Friday, and the Big East polls are back open.

We're looking for your take on a burning question facing the league for 2011. We'll tally up your votes in the poll below and react to the result later on. Leading off this morning's vote: Which Big East coach most needs to win in 2011?

Let me qualify this question by saying I don't think any league coach is on the hot seat this season. Of course, I thought Dave Wannstedt was perfectly safe last year and figured Bill Stewart would survive by winning nine games and a share of the conference title. So it just goes to show you that no one is ever truly free from the firing block. Here are the five nominees:
  • Butch Jones, Cincinnati: I doubt athletic director Mike Thomas is going to overreact, but a 4-8 debut season following the high times of Brian Kelly hasn't endeared Jones to a lot of Bearcats fans yet. Another subpar year will have him facing some heat.
  • Greg Schiano, Rutgers: Schiano basically is the Scarlet Knights program at this point and appears in little danger of being bought out. But some fans are starting to wonder why he hasn't won a Big East title in his decade on the banks, and last year's 4-8 season didn't help.
  • Bill Stewart, West Virginia: Stewart is on the way out after 2011 no matter what. But a strong swan song would greatly enhance his legacy.
  • Todd Graham, Pittsburgh: Graham isn't going to be fired after one season regardless, but athletic director Steve Pederson needs him to succeed quickly to make up for the botched hiring of Mike Haywood in December.
  • Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut: Like Graham, Pasqualoni is only in Year 1 and won't be fired. But the expectations around the Huskies are higher than ever after last year's Fiesta Bowl, and Pasqualoni needs to avoid a major dropoff to keep the momentum going forward.

So there are your nominees. Now it's time to let your voice be heard.
The hot seat for SEC football coaches is a part of life.

Granted, some seats are a lot hotter than others, but you're only as good in this league as your last championship or your last win.

And the more you win, the hotter that seat gets if you hit a skid.

The dean of SEC coaches at the same school is Georgia's Mark Richt, who arrived in Athens in 2001 and has won two SEC championships and 10 or more games in six of his 10 seasons. His problem is that he's lost 12 games over the last two seasons, suffered through the school's first losing season since 1996 a year ago and hasn't been to the SEC championship game since 2005.

Needless to say, the Georgia fans are restless, making this a pivotal season for Richt and the direction of the program.

Truthfully, every season is pivotal in this league, and any equity that a coach has built up can disappear in a flash.

Other than Richt, what other SEC coaches need a big season in 2011? Vote in our poll and tell us whose seat is the hottest, and we'll examine the results next week.
Another day, another round of Big Ten polls.

Let's get things started with a look at the Big Ten coach with the greatest urgency to win in the 2011 season. Sure, every major college football coach has to rack up the Ws, but some need them right away more than others. Three Big Ten coaches received pink-slips during or after the 2010 season after no forced changes in each of the past two years.

Who needs to get it done this fall?

Many will point to a man who has won more Big Ten games than anyone during a sparkling decade at Ohio State. Jim Tressel's problems can’t be found between the white lines, where his Buckeyes have won or shared each of the past six Big Ten titles. But if Tressel gets a chance to coach this season and escapes major repercussions from the NCAA, he can help his cause by guiding Ohio State to another championship.

Purdue’s Danny Hope needs to win, too, but for different reasons. The Boilers have missed bowls in each of the past three seasons, the latter two under Hope’s command. Although he gets his teams to play hard and has endured some bad luck, Hope must show he can get it done at this level.

Ron Zook entered 2010 atop many hot-seat lists, but the Illinois coach helped himself by guiding the Illini to seven wins and a Texas Bowl victory. Still, Zook could be in trouble if the Illini take a step back, so he needs wins.

Iowa's Kirk Ferentz endured a rough offseason after his team fell short of expectations last fall.

Michigan will give Brady Hoke time to get things right, but Wolverines fans want to see improved results in Year 1, so Hoke will be in the spotlight.

Now it's your turn to weigh in.
Every year, there are coaches that land on the hot seat. So who are the non-AQ coaches who have to win in 2011? I have compiled a brief list. The no-brainer choice at the top of the list is New Mexico coach Mike Locksley, who goes into his third season having won two games and lost 22 with the Lobos.

Many thought he was on the hot seat last season, too. But the problem is he has a large buyout that New Mexico cannot afford to pay. According to local reports, it would have cost the program $1.4 million to fire him after last season. It would cost $1 million to fire him in 2011. So he may actually be safe if he has another bad season, unless New Mexico can find some serious cash.

I would put UAB coach Neil Callaway and Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild at the top of this list. Callaway goes into his fifth season at the school and has now been given plenty of time to get his players in to try and get into a bowl for just the second time in school history. He is 15-33 in four seasons and the Blazers went 4-8 last season. With 16 returning starters, including quarterback Bryan Ellis and running back Pat Shed, this could be bowl game or bust season for Callaway.

As for Fairchild, he took his team to a bowl game in his first season in 2008, but his teams have now posted back-to-back 3-9 seasons. The Rams also return 15 starters, including quarterback Pete Thomas. The Rams should be favored in four of their five nonconference games (Utah State, San Jose State, Northern Colorado, UTEP) so expectations will be high to return to a bowl.

Ron English also has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons. His team showed vast improvement last season over 2009. If that continues in 2011, he should be safe even with a losing record. But there are going to have to be more Ws in the win column. Bob Toledo is 12-37 in four seasons at Tulane
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this spring that the best part of last season is that it’s finally over. Swinney doesn’t want to relive it, and Clemson fans certainly don’t want to, either. Back-to-back losing seasons in Death Valley could prove costly for Swinney’s career, but he is hardly the only coach in the ACC who will be scrutinized this fall.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis has so far escaped any professional repercussions for his program’s NCAA investigation. He has survived an 0-4 record against rival NC State. And a ceiling of eight wins has been applauded. Will the Tar Heels be able to take the next step this fall and win the Coastal Division, despite losing a wealth of talent to the NFL and ushering in a new era of quarterback?

Wake Forest fans are also growing impatient with staying home for the holidays, as coach Jim Grobe, who guided the program through its most successful period in school history, has now had back-to-back losing seasons.

The two new coaches in the league -- Maryland’s Randy Edsall and Miami’s Al Golden -- were both hired to contend immediately. Edsall must fare better than his predecessor, the ACC’s 2010 Coach of the Year. And at Miami? Win or go home.
Just about every coach feels annual pressure to win, but some head into a season knowing they need to win.

In the Pac-12 this fall, a number of coaches fall into the "On the hot seat" category, though clearly some seats are warmer than others.

Washington State coach Paul Wulff enters his fourth season in Pullman with just two conference victories to his credit. Athletic director Bill Moos gave him a mostly tepid endorsement this offseason.

UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel posted his second 4-8 season in three years and opted to extensively reshuffle his staff, dispatching both coordinators, including offensive guru Norm Chow.

Arizona State's Dennis Erickson hasn't posted a winning record since going 10-3 in 2007, his first season in Tempe. Jeff Tedford rebuilt California from a bottom-feeder to a competitive program, but the Bears seemingly have plateaued, and some Old Blues have grown impatient waiting for a next step.

Lane Kiffin enters only his second season at USC, but Trojans fans don't like 8-5 seasons. And new athletic director Pat Haden doesn't like the NCAA following Kiffin's trail from Tennessee.

Each of these coaches is under pressure in 2011. But who's under the most.

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